Match Recap: Louisville City vs Sporting Kansas City 2 - 10/04/2020
The conclusion of the regular season took place on Saturday evening for Louisville City at Lynn Family Stadium. Morados ended the campaign taking on fellow Group E opponent Sporting Kansas City 2 for the fourth and final time. Sporting KC was already eliminated from playoff contention before this match, although they managed to squeeze several wins out of the East’s Group of Death. The hot days of summer have passed, and the supporters were greeted with a fall chill that signaled the start of the postseason. City had already locked up their playoff spot, but there was still something to play for. They were battling the top spot in the East. Earning those honors would guarantee home-field advantage until the finals. One more go against the former Swope Park Rangers (along with a Rowdies loss or draw) was all that stood between them and home field.
Coach Hackworth selected a starting eleven that featured many of the squad’s top performers, however, there were some notable changes. Brian Ownby earned the start up in what had become Napo Matoso’s spot. While this choice was not shocking given Ownby’s recent run of form, what was interesting was Napo’s complete absence from the eighteen. The last match Napo was seen on the pitch was against Indy, where towards the end of the match he picked up a bit of a knock but did see the match out. He was spotted on the field at warmup, but that knock could have been worse than it looked. Hopefully, this decision was to allow him to rest and be fresh for the postseason. The more curious change was the deployment of Akil Watts in the midfield in place of Corben Bone. Akil has mostly been utilized as a defender, but he has been subbed into the midfield late in a game or two this season. This willingness to experiment a bit brought us fan-favorite winger Napo, so who am I to question the decision? In Hack we trust. The last observation from the squad was the inclusion of new loanee, Kenney Walker, to the bench.
Now, before we jump into the match, I want to take a minute to congratulate Sean Totsch for his pre-match engagement! He gets to cap off his stellar 2020 regular season with his best win of all. Ok, now let’s get on with the match! As expected, Lou City came out as the early aggressor with Lil KC playing off their back foot trying to keep their head above water. In the first 20 minutes of action, Louisville had several nice buildups but did not manage to get any threatening shots off. Sporting was largely suffocated until 20’ where they had gotten a nice look on goal that was blocked by the foot of Alexis Souahy. Only two minutes later, Ownby sent a dangerous shot on target towards goal, only for it to be stopped by the body of a defender. At 26’, Lou City finally found the first goal of the night. After a cross that had a bit too much on it, Ownby set up and chipped the ball into the mixer where captain Paolo DelPiccolo headed it in for his second goal of the 2020 season. City had two more near misses at 31’ and 38’. The first was by Speedy Williams off a corner kick and the second was a laser shot to the arms of the keeper from Cameron Lancaster from outside of the box. At 40’, Cam showed off his MLS quality by splitting not two, not three, but four defenders in a charge downfield and sent the ball past the rooted keeper. Cam doesn’t find lanes, he invents them. Goal number 10 in the season. Lou City entered the locker room in complete control up 2-0 on KC.
The second half did not exactly pick up with the same level of action the first ended with. More Lou City pressure but not many notable chances except for a nice shot by Cam that was deflected away by the leg of the keeper at 52’. Sporting KC made two subs at 57’ and less than 10 minutes later found their first goal of the night. It was a rare occurrence of the City back line getting stretched, disjoined, and exploited. The first card of the night was awarded to Kansas City for a poor challenge on Oscar Jimenez. At 74’, Sporting rolled out two more subs. Louisville City also made some adjustments at this stoppage of play. Pat McMahon and Akil called it a night and tagged in Jonathan Gomez and Kenney Walker. Totsch nearly found the net at 82’ when he headed a free-kick a touch over the crossbar. At 87’ Luke Spencer and Jason Johnson came in to relieve Cam and Antoine Hoppenot. After three minutes of stoppage, the match ended as a 2-1 win for the home side.
Another match and another win for Morados! PDP won the fan-voted Man of the Match award after scoring the first goal and securing an 8.0 player rating. Hoppenot had himself a decent game as well with one assist four created chances (most in the match) and a rating of 7.6. The team stats looked very similar to several other performances during this season. Dominated possession with 62%, 84% pass completion, and 20 total shots with seven of those on target. You’d like to see better conversion rate on the shots, but that’s getting a little picky. The boys needed a win, and they went out and got it. Tampa Bay lost their match, so City’s win locked them in for first in the East.
I’d be remiss if I did not bring up the Saint Louis versus Indy Eleven matchup. The winner would get the second playoff spot in the group, and a draw would send Indy to the postseason. Given that STL is folding at the season’s conclusion, it was potentially their last match ever. While they might be rivals, most City fans were rooting the Saint Louis underdogs on. It was their last opportunity to make the playoffs. Those in attendance received periodic updates on that game during the Sporting Kansas match. Early in the season, Group E looked to be theirs to lose. Well, when the final whistle blew, their season ended. Indy collapse and STL booked a ticket into the playoffs. You love to see it. Happy for the green and blue.
As I write this, Lou City’s playoff opponent has not yet been determined as Hartford Athletic are playing tonight (Sunday). If Hartford wins, City takes on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. If Hartford loses or draws, they will get to come to Lynn Family Stadium and take on the two-time champs. I’d prefer to take on Hartford. Between the two, they appear to be the easier opponent. Regardless of the outcome, I have faith in Hack and the staff in their ability to prepare for either. Lou City may have lost earlier in the year to Pitt, but that was before they found their groove. It would be a different battle this late in the season. We will see what transpires!